Henry Rollins x The Partae – Interviewed by Tom Valcanis

Ahead of 'GOOD TO SEE YOU' AUSTRALIAN TOUR THIS JUNE & JULY, 2023' Tom Valcanis talks with Henry Rollins.

by the partae
  1. What does authenticity mean to you in 2023?

======= I think if you have to think about it, you’re not it. It’s like asking what’s masculinity in 2023 or at any time. I reckon if you’re doing what you’re doing with commitment, you’re authentic but at the same time, are too busy to answer and perhaps that’s what makes you authentic. It’s never a question I ask myself or wonder about anyone else.

  1. You once said that you only sell out if you sell out your values (Ramones on a car ad…pay them double, pay them now!) As people change, values change – is that just an inescapable part of being human or is that indeed, “selling out?”

============== I’m not sure what you’re asking but I’ll try to answer. I think it’s possible when you’re at a certain age, your value set can be informed by what you know but also by what you don’t. When I was young, all police were the enemy. The ones I dealt with were less than fair to me. I’m not dealing drugs or breaking into houses but nonetheless, I’m getting hassled, threatened. I thought they all should be torched. As an older person, I see law enforcement differently. It looks like a very nuanced and difficult job where someone is tasked with bringing simple tools to an often very complex situation. I wouldn’t wish that job on anyone. Could it be that at least in the USA, it’s a flawed system and cops are in many ways doing the best they can with an increasingly bad mechanism putting out bad results and in some ways they’re screwed no matter what? Are there bad cops? Absolutely. You want less bad cops? I do. Do I want less crime? Sure. How do we get there? The younger me would have said to wipe out all cops and you’d have less crime. The older me says it’s a problem as big as the country itself and has been a work in progress for at least a couple of centuries. So, have I sold out my values with how I think about this particular topic now, or am I seeing more than just the part of the iceberg that’s partially submerged? I don’t think a band getting its music on an ad is selling out, I think it’s a subversive victory. The song didn’t change, the mainstream is being bent to the band’s will. Selling out is appealing to white supremacists because you even though you don’t like what they say, you still want their votes and you’re willing to overlook certain things.

  1. If you’re trying to make a living from your art, is the art of the sale necessarily a bad thing?

========== No. Hopefully an artist knows their worth. I’ve bought a lot of art from artists. I never haggle with the price. I respect it.

  1. Is art still the pursuit of perfection or has most of it just become a vehicle for self-enhancement?

=========== You might get a better answer from an artist. I’m not one. I do what I do and say what I say. There’s not one thing artistic about anything I do. The artists I’ve been around, I don’t know if perfection was ever part of their equation. I think for a large part, it was about expression. They see and feel things in their way and render the information artistically. Francis Bacon, the great painter, how he saw people is why he painted them as he did. I think for some artists, their work is a processing of life and expressing that. Perhaps some artists “put it on” a bit for the purposes of selling something, or getting acclaim, fame, money. I think it’s perhaps missing the point to generalize about these things. I think you have to go case by case. Was art ever the pursuit of perfection? Perhaps for some artists. I guess you’d have to ask them.

  1. Is the state of culture today something that you find completely foreign, or something that you’re comfortable in?

========== I’ve always found it for the most part, foreign to me. Seeing what so many people like doing, I’m glad they have it. I’m grateful for stadiums to hold them all so they can see a “big game” and when they’re there, the streets are a little more empty. I like holidays too. I don’t take them but the normals love this kind of thing and they all pack themselves away in houses with their relatives who they often hate and leave the streets empty. There’s social media. Isn’t it great? People can take photos of their meals at restaurants and send them to their friends and when they’re doing that, they’re leaving me alone. Imagine if all these people were turned on to better stuff? Ugh. Long lines at museums and galleries, etc. How about this; I find myself completely comfortable to be foreign in today’s state of culture. My interests and mainstream interests are mutually exclusive and I couldn’t be happier about it. The normals have left all the best stuff for me. I can’t thank them enough.

  1. Is the podcast a continuation of the oral storytelling tradition? What’s your view on them?

============= I think people do podcasts for all kinds of reasons. I don’t like doing them because to me, it’s time I won’t get back, someone who’s not me has my voice, ideas and opinions forever and can do pretty much what they’d like with them. I’ve done interviews where a year later, the interviewer has told me they’re now going to make a podcast out of the interview, or they want to use the interview for a book they’ve suddenly decided they’re going to “write” and I have unwittingly become a “content provider.” I think it is a one-way exchange. I’ve been told it will be “great promotion” but I know that’s simply not the case. I did a podcast earlier this year as a favor for someone. The best part of it was it was brief. Content wise, it was a complete waste of time. I’ve listened to at least three of them in my life. I dated a woman once, she’s a doctor. She listens to podcasts done by doctors about research and I heard a little bit of that and they were interesting but intellectually over my pay grade.

  1. Does DIY/Punk/Bohemianism still exist? Or has it been co-opted or twisted into something else? Or is “punk rock tradition” a contradiction in terms?

========== I don’t think they all have to be joined together so if you take one, you have to include the others. I’m a billboard for the DIY ethos and at this point, it’s pretty much the only way I can operate without losing my temper or risk selling out. When you take other people’s money, you also have to take their opinions. That’s a deal breaker. There’s a project I’m working on now and I’ve had an investor ask to be involved. The money would rocket the thing forward but then I’d have to put his ideas into mine. Not going to happen. No compromise. If I don’t get it done, I’ll die trying, which is fine. So, DIY still exists. Does Punk exist? Of course it does. There’s great Punk bands all over the world. Check out Upchuck from Atlanta Georgia or Generacion Suicida from Los Angeles. Great Punk bands are all over the world. Are Bohemians the ones who think Jack Kerouac was a good writer? I’m not sure what Bohemians get up to and I don’t care. I’d rather Punk bands not think they have to do certain things to be “Punk” and just express themselves. I think when you start flexing the ideas of “tradition” then suddenly there’s rules. No long hair, no this, no that. This happened a lot in the 1980s and Punk Rock lost me. I got told to cut my hair in 1982 and didn’t cut it again until 1986. I think some of the rules and regulations if you will, came with young people truly trying to differentiate themselves from that which came before. They’re drawing lines in the sand and I get it but when you’re basically setting up an alternate society, you see how quickly things become complicated. No long hair, okay but what about gay? Gay okay but with only with short hair? What about the short hair guy who likes Trump? Can he come into the tent? I think this kind of thing is what damages culture. It’s why I don’t want to be part of any club, gang, group. I’m on the board of a few charities but that’s about it. I live alone, work alone and have very little interest in hanging out with groups.

  1. An event can occur and two, three, etc. sides can see two, three, many different things. When truth becomes a political tribal consensus reality, where does truth stand?

=========== The truth becomes a thing to bend and shape to fit a narrative. Even if the truth loses its inherent truthfulness that doesn’t matter to those who are after something. LGBTQ people are proof there are LGBTQ people. Some might say LGBTQ people are proof there’s not enough god being taught in schools and proof the liberal/communist (see what I did there putting them together?) agenda is destroying good Christian countries all over the Western World. I think the truth stands high on the endangered species list.

  1. Are we living in “passionless” times?

============= I don’t do “we” but I’ll try to answer. My micro universe is passion driven. I think if you all were living in passionless times, you wouldn’t have hit the streets in such large numbers when a black man was choked to death by cops in broad daylight or when the Supreme Court of the United States wiped out a woman’s right to control her body’s functions. Passion (along with misinformation, manipulation, ignorance, stupidity, bigotry, victimhood and infantilization) is what drove thousands of men to run into the Capitol building in Washington, DC to try to overturn an election when their moron candidate got bounced out of office. I think passion (along with misinformation, manipulation, ignorance, stupidity, bigotry, victimhood and infantilization) is at an all time high amongst the ranks of the consumerati.

– Tickets on sale now via www.frontiertouring.com/henryrollins –

– Tickets on sale now via www.frontiertouring.com/henryrollins –

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